Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 kicks the bucket

Everyone has a list of thing that they want to do before they kick the bucket, a list of places to visit, things to do, people to meet, films to watch, festivals to attend and books to read.

For me 2013 was a so memorable, so rewarding and so much fun as well as challenging in so many ways.

It opened with an amazing trip to China and to India – a kind of trip that has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Spending 4 weeks interning in Shanghai (with a local company that imported fine Spanish food and wine) was amazing and an experience that I will never for forget.   

Going to India was another dream come true. I went to India as a child and I always dreamt of going back and this year I got my chance.

I was lucky enough to participate in an International Journalism Project meaning that I got to spend two and half weeks discovering India in ways that I wouldn’t normally get as a standard tourist. Of course, as a massive fan of the written word getting to write about India was a complete bonus.

Visiting two of the great wonders of the world were so incredible. The Taj Mahal’s beauty was mind blowing and visiting the Great Wall of China was staggering.    

But all holidays must come to an end and going back to work was a little difficult.

But luckily, I managed to moonlight for a few months as a ghost writer (officially as a Graduate Research Assistant) for Cancer Research. Combining this with the day job meant often working 13 or 15 days in a row but that was all part of the challenge.   

However, life is not all about work.

There were visits to Sydney Writers Festival, Perth International Arts Festival and to Malaysia for a friend’s wedding as well as a skydive. These were all great experiences and seem to be pertinently (maybe not the skydive) on the bucket list.

Singing was another great pastime and singing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was loud and high but great fun. Also singing in a smaller Choir in a catholic church was amazing and singing the great Christmas Music (including descant ;)) at Midnight Mass was increasable.

Finally, 2013 saw the buying a house. This was never really on the bucket list but it is almost a necessity these days, so now we have a mortgage.

Looking back, it seems that things weren’t really crossed off but heavily underlined things to do again. I hope 2014 will see more adventures of so many descriptions. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Trade union hack is a label proudly worn

Ever since becoming a work place delegate for my union and attending one of their training courses last month my passion for the trade union movement has been recharged. It was great to learn how to contribute to a fairer workplace and how we can make a difference.

If that makes me a trade union hack, it is a label that I proudly wear.

There are so many things that the union movement has fought for that I now take for granted and if these things were taken away, my life would be a lot harder and defiantly more complicated.

There were so many simple things that were negotiated for by the union movement that a person in permanent employment enjoys; things such as sick/personal/carers’ leave, holiday pay, and job security. There are also many other things that unions worked to set in legislation, such as workplace safety, penalty rates,  holidays, overtime and a minimum wage.   

As delegates, we were reminded of the consequences of casual and insecure employment such as poor financial security that could make secure a car loan or mortgage difficult and securing a rental property even harder. As with casual employment, there is no sick pay and no guaranteed work from one week to the next, meaning that supporting yourself becomes a lot more difficult.   

Casual employment also affects people’s social lives, families and communities. When you don’t know when you have to work and you have to take any job that comes along, you can’t plan your social life ahead of time. You can’t commit to play sport, do things at your kid’s school or regularly attend interpretive dance classes. All this makes managing a work/life balance really difficult and has the potential for alienating people from the things that give meaning to their lives.

This is why the culling of penalty rates is so wrong. When people working in industries such as hospitality and in the health care system which requires them to work when the majority of the community are enjoying communal time off such as evenings and weekends so shouldn’t they be compensated for their sacrifice?

Having spent years in casual employment and juggling multiple part time jobs I remember how hard it was to do the things I loved when I had to always be available to work and any expense like music lessons, book clubs, going out with friends and attending sometimes pricy political and NGO events were a little hard to justify.

So as the state and federal governments work towards their agenda of privatisation and liberalisation, I will continue to be a union hack so that we can preserve things like penalty rates for those who work unsociable hours and permanent jobs over casual employment and fixed term contracts as well as deal with many of the other issues that people face when they go to work.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The freedom to put nails in the wall

When I first brought my apartment, one of the first things that everyone said that I now was allowed to put nails in the wall.

After spending several years renting and sharing it will be the first time that I have the freedom to put things up on the wall without having to ask anyone’s permission or worry about managing a difficult landlady.

The idea of becoming a home owner was a little scary at first, I wasn’t really sure that I was ready for the financial commitment or that I was able to give up (rather postpone) any epic overseas adventures but it is for the best. I can’t imagine being 65 and still having to rent or share.  I am determined to make it work, even if it means getting two jobs.

They say that you fall in love with your house almost instantly and I could see myself living there within a few seconds.

Not only was it a couple of hundred meters from where I was renting but I loved the pine floorboards that would be perfect for my Persian Carpets and the white walls were perfect for hanging my favourite photos and prints.

Better still, the kitchen was perfect and the bathroom needed no renovation.

Sure it wasn’t perfect. It did come with furnishing that weren't really my thing but making the apartment my own was part of the fun.

So far, my love for my place has grown, especially since it is now all organised and all the boxes are safely in the recycling. I love having my own space, being so close to the city (no city views this time around but that doesn’t matter) I look forward to create new memories in my little apartment and can’t wait to spend many happy hours here with family and friends.  

High Five

Five Bar in Mount Lawley is relatively new and but is already a favourite with those who enjoy Beaufort Street vibe and ambiance. I really enjoy this part of Perth, with its proximity to the CBD and the verity of places to grab a bite to eat or to enjoy a cheeky mid week glass with friends without having to go into seedier parts of the city. 

I’ve visited a few bars recently and there is one bar that deserves a High Five, just based on its décor, service and food.

Both times I’ve been there; the staff have been great in providing recommendations depending on what we felt like and the food always came out quickly.    

Having done a bit of research I already knew that their chips are to die for and I can guarantee that they were amazing. They were fresh as well as full of flavour and so much better than others that I’ve had in the past.

Their Barman’s platter was also great and a good accompaniment to a glass of wine as well as perfect to share among two or more not-so-hungry people.     

But what I loved the most was that it had such nice atmosphere to it without it feeling boring, old or daggy. With plenty of natural light and the space to have several seating arraignments, you could choose where you wanted to sit depending on how many of you there were and if you wanted to sit at a table or in a comfortable couch.  While we were there, there were several people working way on laptops and several more taking part in uni group projects. There was even a knitting group that were enjoying a drink while making progress on their knitted garments.

While I waited for my friend I really enjoyed checking out the many photos that adorned the walls and didn’t at all feel self-conscious waiting alone.

Five Bar completely deserves a high five as they have created a venue that has great décor, good food and service. It is light, relaxing and the perfect backdrop to a great evening with friends.

Five Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The weekend, it is where the fun starts

For most people, the weekend is the flipside to having to working to bring in the bacon and I am no different. The past couple of weekends have been amazingly cool and a complete adventure.

I’ve always had a mild obsession with the weekends; an obsession spawned by having to work full time.

A few weeks ago, after a difficult day at work and while I sat in my parents’ living room having a cup of tea I challenged myself to fill the next couple weekends with fun and adventure.

There have been a book launch and drinks with mates as well as whale watching and skydiving. Not to mention, a choir concert and moving into my own home.

Let me tell you about them.

The first weekend of this challenge started off by coffee at Love Thy Neighbour Café in Northbridge which is this cute little place in an arcade off William Street. Their Short Mac and Banana Bread set my little sister and me up for some whale watching.

After traipsing up from the city to Hillarys Boat Harbour (a place I wouldn’t recommend anyone visit unless they wanted to know what boredom felt like) we hopped on this boat and proceeded to chase whales for about two hours.

When I first had the idea of whale watching, I had images of them putting on a show and leaping out the water and leaving us breathless with their majesty and size. But no!

Of course we had to spend a little time getting to where it was deep enough for them to swim but what ended up happening was that the closer we got the further away they seemed to be. We saw a pod of dolphins swim past which was quite cool but we wanted to see the big whales work their magic.

The next day saw drinks at Bar Five and a Tim Winton book launch, which topped off a really nice weekend.

Another weekend I got to go Skydiving which was totally cool. I originally was going to go several weeks ago after sandwiched in between a choir rehearsal and dinner with a friend but it got cancelled because of the wind.

But luckily the weather was perfect and a balmy 32 degrees with not a cloud in the sky. The 60 seconds of free fall was the biggest adrenalin kick that I’ve ever had in my whole and entire life. Once the parachute was open, it was amazing to see the city that I live in from another prospective.         

Sky diving - a once in a life time experience

The rest of that weekend was spent setting my new flat and making it my own.

With a mortgage, the theory goes that weekends will be a lot less exciting due to budgetary restraints but we shall see.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lunch down lemon lane

Perth over the last couple of months has been wet, windy and overcast but over the last couple of days the weather has improved to perfection.

With it there being not a cloud in the sky and temperature at a warm 30 degrees, I decided to enjoy the outdoors and do lunch somewhere.

Luckily Claremont is great on a beautiful day so after walking around for a little while I decided to visit Lemon Lane.  

This light and breezy café is down a laneway off the main Claremont drag and has space both indoors and outdoors where you can sit and watch the world go past.

After grabbing a few magazines and a short mac, I chose a Tasmanian Smoked Salmon Crostini with Avocado, Brie and dripped with lemon oil. The presentation was lovely and none of the various elements were too overpowering.

While the bread is supposed to be toasted, here it was a little too toasted. But that is no matter because as a whole it was wonderful.

The Coffee wasn’t bad and the service was good. It was a lovely moment in a beautiful day.

The only problem with Lemon Lane is that it shuts so early (1pm) on a Sunday which is hardly conducive to a long and leisurely brunch.

But opening hours is a city wide problem and I am really looking forward to when you can get a good coffee in Perth after 4 pm on weekdays and good places like Lemon Lane extend their opening hours on weekends. It is all about the money, I guess.

So if you want to go somewhere that is nice in Claremont that isn’t too pretentious but still really good, give Lemon Lane a try.   

Lemon Lane on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Every memory has a song

I don't know about you but music is like a sound track to life - play me a song from my playlists and I can tell you what I was doing, where I was going and who I was with.

St Germain started off being background music to Christian Union meetings and soon became the sound track to my undergrad degrees and the existential crisis that accompanied them. It always reminds me to getting up to shenanigans at mum and dad's when they went on holiday, they were the days!!

Emilie Simon's Rocket to the Moon was part of the So Frenchy so Chic 2010 CD and transports me back to backpacking around Europe and especially walking around Amsterdam while  desperately trying to contact relatives who I was supposed to stay with on my final night but who I couldn't get hold of. 

Belleruche was Album of the Week on Radio National Breakfast and on just on one hearing I knew I had to get it. It reminds me of living in Sydney and in this granny flat in Marrickville. It was a draughty, it wasn't The Hilton and it was abit of a hole but it was in Marrickville so what can I say? 

Omar Sosa came to Becks Verandah (Perth International Arts  Festival's live music programme sponsored by Becks) in 2006 or 2007 and it always reminds of being a "glassie" at the verandah. It was such a cool job, just working the floor and picking up beer bottles and used glasses while listening to the many acts that came in from overseas then enjoying a staffie after work was done for the night.     

Apart from world music, jazz, etc. I also love classical music and Schubert's Piano Trio in e flat (opus 100) is one of my favourite pieces of Chamber Music, I just love it. It would help me study in first year uni while in student accommodation for the first time. I would marvel at the skill needed to play this work well.

It makes me think of my parents who, at 4 pm, love to stop and enjoy a cup of tea with some chamber music. 
These are just a few and I love playing them again and being transported to some really cool times in my life.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

You don’t need to be a dude to enjoy dude food

I first heard about Dude Food on Master Chief a few years ago and being not much of a foodie and more the arty bookish type I filed this food genre under “food fad” and promptly forgot about it.

But going out for a burger a few weeks ago reminded me of dude food, and being the bookish and nerdy type, I’ve been doing a little bit of research which turned out to be a little difficult since there didn’t seem to be a clear definition.

Dude food is far more than your traditional American fast-food fare and while it has its roots in burgers, hot dogs, etc, it takes these old time favourites to a new level to incorporate European, Asian, and contemporary Australian influences.

My latest visit was to grill’d at the Brookfield Place where I went for a Moroccan Chicken burger. For something that is supposed to be influenced by a style of cooking steeped in spices and flavour, this burger was a little bland and lacked a real flavour kick. Grill'd Brookfield Place on Urbanspoon

I know this Grill’d place is part of a chain but it did seem too much like a fast-food joint with staff seeming to work there just for the money (which is fair enough because I am doing the same) but it would be nice to go to a place that made an effort that made you feel that you were not going to just another outlet. It was super fresh though and I loved the crunchy salad. 

But you know where I really loved?

The Flipside!!

This favourite burger experience of all times was getting a burger from and this has to be Dude Food at its best.        Flipside Burger Bar Northbridge on Urbanspoon

They have an arrangement with The Mechanics’ Institute upstairs where you can enjoy a burger with your beverage. The result is that there is this little funky dynamic happening above street level where you can enjoy a really cool burger in one of Perth’s coolest spaces. I got a blue cheese and pear burger that went really well with my Rodger’s Pale Ale.

Another cool place is Jus Burgers across William Street. While Mr Jus does have a couple of stores around Perth, and the quality doesn’t make you feel like the burgers are the same. The bread is awesome and perfect anecdote to a big but classy night out. If you have cool out-of-town Cousins that you want to impress, bring them here. Jus Burgers on Urbanspoon

They also have an arrangement with the Ezra Pound Bar where, like the Flipside and Mechanics, you can order a burger with your bevvie.          

Finally, if you find yourself anywhere near Hampten Road in Nedlands, pop into Burgermeister. Here is not your usual student hangout nor is it full of staff from the local hospital, despite discounts being available. Burgermeister on Urbanspoon

Ended up having one of their burgers in between a shift and a choir gig at the university and thought it was cool décor and enjoyed their well presented burger which didn’t taste too bad. I loved the discount for hospital staff even more.     

Hope you enjoy your burgers and remember that you don’t need to be a dude to enjoy dude food!!!  


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Small Bars - a great addition to a rich city life

I don't know about you but I love spending time with my friends and family. They are interesting, funny and wildly entertaining.

Whether we visit an art gallery or concert, go to the beach, attend some kind of political event we always manage to squeeze in a visit to a cafe or bar - just so we can chat, catch up and enjoy each other's company.

Depending on where we are we often go to one of the many small bars that have sprung up around Perth. Often they have a great vibe, great coffee and menu as well as good selection of beverages.

These small bars are a relatively new concept in Perth and have been imported from Melbourne, our defiantly cooler cousin.

But the growth in these smaller venues have been met with some resistance often by those who haven't really been to enough to know that they aren't really like your local pub.

Many people argue that these small bars (which operate under the Government's small bar licence where you can enjoy an alcoholic beverage without buying a meal at the same time) encourage the over consumption of alcohol, causing people to become loud and disorderly.

But I beg to differ. 

Small bars generally pull a different crowd. A crowd that is there to enjoy a quiet night out with friends. A crowd that is probably slightly older or not into the mainstream Aussie culture. A crowd that doesn't, on the whole, drink to get drunk. 

Seriously people, they aren't that bad. They are just like cafes but with a more diverse menu.   

Sure, they might be slightly louder than your newborn's bed room when she or he is sleeping but they aren't loader than your standard footie game or even your Friday Night Youth Group and kids birthday party. 

So, the next time you have nothing to do, go exploring a bit and see how much Perth is changing.     

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